The Scary Tree

article-2259589-16d37921000005dc-470_964x614
Source

It stood in the northwest quadrant of the front yard – this terrifying tree of unknown origin. It could be seen from every window of our bedroom and the living room, and it looked like a giant clawed hand. We called it the scary tree.

It was an important distinction. There was the boring tree, which couldn’t even be climbed because the limbs were too high up. The crepe myrtle tree bloomed and caused Momma to sneeze every Spring.  The climbing tree in the backyard was our favorite, and the giant tree, that cast a shadow on the house every afternoon, would kill us all if it ever fell.

There wasn’t anything special about the scary tree. It was quite normal during the day, but at night, it was a giant beast, clawing its way back to the earth from somewhere beneath us. We spent many a night averting our eyes from the windows only to hear the scratch of its branches outside. We imagined it coming for us, not because we were terribly naughty, but because we’d seen Poltergeist, and the only things scarier than clown toys were trees in a storm and possessed fathers, a la #2.

Locked in our room together, we’d huddle in a corner away from it, away from everything we feared, but we couldn’t escape it. It brought with it an intoxicating stench. When the lightning would crash and the wind would howl, we knew it was coming for us, or at least, someday it would. Until that day, we would be neither seen nor heard.

The scary tree was there after a late night return home when the silence in the house was not calm or pleasant.

The scary tree swayed at the sound of sirens at midnight or the sobs after a smack.

The scary tree convinced us we were worthless and needed to be taught a lesson, even when it never directly said it to us.

We wondered what life was like outside those four walls, but we never dared to leave or escape it. We just accepted it for what it was – a tyrant.

Back then there was more thunder and lightning than sunshine. (Or at least, that’s what my adult brain recalls.) Storms came frequent and fast, in trumpets and torrents, and we weathered them all – albeit frightened and alone in our little crowd.

The day came, though, when it all ended. The storm of our childhood started to settle down, and sunlight broke through the clouds.

Lightning crashed, shaking the house and our bodies, and the tree splintered in two sending a sweetness into the air. A soberness, as it were.

It wasn’t the same anymore. The claws, the sheer terror of it, was gone. But what it symbolized? That never diminished. It lingered there, a permanent reminder of the storms, until we moved and something else took its place.

 

Dear Millennials

Dear Millennials,

It’s graduation time again, which means lots of unsolicited advice from random strangers. But mine’s different! I hope.

I’m not here to lecture you about laziness or entitlement, because I know you aren’t either of those things. In fact, I am one of your biggest fans. Just like every generation before you, you’ve been lumped in a group that only represents two percent of you, so I am not talking to the two percenters.

Instead, I’m looking at you: the adopters of new technology, the hard workers, the frustrated ones, the kind and compassionate ones despite a world that has showed you little of both. By now, you will realize you’re fighting an uphill battle. The world of your parents and grandparents is long gone, and there’s only so much you can do about it. Life is about to get super real, yo.

Unless you’re in one of those odd groups of people that knows exactly what you want to do and have been working toward it your whole life, you have come to the frightening realization that you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going. The clock starts ticking now, and no matter how many people tell you, “You can always go back to college”, the reality is that isn’t as true as you would hope. College is expensive, but life is more expensive. Unless you can live at home with your parents for another four to six years or come into a lot of money, life will get in the way.

Not everything is all doom and gloom, though, and I’m living proof of that. I had to leave college when life got in the way, and nearly 20 years later, I’m doing what I love. It wasn’t a fun road, and there were a lot of missteps. But I made it and so can you. Good things come to those who work their butt off. It just might take longer than you would like.

  1. Don’t Settle

    Don’t ever let anyone tell you that a job is just a job, and in the end, as long as you’re getting paid, you should be happy. Fuck that shit. Seriously. Your feelings matter. Rich people aren’t happy because they have money, right? Well, same thing here. Sometimes money doesn’t matter. Sometimes you can live a fulfilling life with barely a dollar to your name.

  2. Don’t Let Others Judge Your Worth

    You owe no one anything, and vice versa, no one owes you a thing. Spending a life worried that you’re not doing as well as the girl you sat beside in AP History will lead you to chronic unhappiness. Just remember that no one looks like they do on the surface. Especially the head cheerleader, Prom (or Homecoming) Queen, or the quarterback.

  3. Interviewing Skills are Sometimes More Important Than Actual Skills

    Every business professor and teacher out there will tell you the resume is the most important part of getting a job. It might be true, but the resume is also bullshit on top of layers of other bullshit. If your skills on paper get you to an interview, then you have only won a quarter of the battle. The interview takes up 50% of your success, with the last quarter falling to references. So bone up on that. Check out the multitude of interview questions available on the internet. Prepare your stories, work on your charisma, and make the recruiters see your worth. Every company has a different kind of interview model, so be sure to ask about how it is graded. Be prepared and smash it out. With that being said…

  4. There Is Always Someone More Suitable Than You

    When you are certain that you are the best candidate for a position, push that shit out of your mind, because you most definitely are not. All this means is you gotta sell them on why you are better. Convince them that what you might lack in skills, you will more than make up for in attitude. Because every manager will confirm it, knowledge can be learned. Attitude can’t.

  5. Never Undervalue Your Skills

    If someone says your degree is obsolete, ignore the hell out of them, because nothing is ever wasted. Except maybe a classics major. (Honestly, what were you thinking?) In my office, I’m known as the Excel guru. I’m not. I am soooo not. I know some stuff, but everything I don’t know I look up on Google. I tell people this all the time. I fake it til I make it, basically, but this is still considered a skill. You know why? Because I know enough to search the right thing and implement it to suit our needs. That Intermediate Excel skill turns to advanced in their eyes. The same could be said about absolutely every other skill. If you’ve worked in hospitality or retail, whether you accept it or not, you have conflict resolution and negotiation skills, and I’ll bet damn good ones too.

  6. “Grow Your Brand”

    If ever there was a corporate phrase that matters, this is the one that you should focus on the most. Working hard sometimes doesn’t matter. It’s about how you present yourself. The more people know you within a company, the more likely you will see some success. It takes a very long time, so just remember this: don’t get too discouraged. Use that frustration to fuel your career rocket. During your company life, you will see undeserving people move up. It sucks, but you know what? The reason it happens is because they network, they stand out, they don’t undervalue their skills, and they interview well. Be that person. As long as you have the right attitude, you will get noticed.


You’ve got this. So get out there into the real world and kick some ass!

The Music

Light shines into my charred room and illuminates one tiny patch of unblemished floor. songSomewhere, in the background, a piano plays Rachminoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” – both melancholy and sanguine. All those enchanting chords bounce off the barren four-walled space and remind me something is waiting for me outside. Hope. I touch the light. I feel it’s warmth on my hand. I let a smile spread across my face.

Someone, somewhere, believes in me. I need to believe in me too.

A cloud covers the light, and I’m plunged back into darkness. Stepping into the corner, I touch the walls. Fire has scorched the room. My fire. Anger over my inadequacy will never diminish. I’m in a prison of my own making. The music swells but is swallowed by blackened wood. Faint traces of “Stairway to Heaven” reach my ears and fade.

I will never amount to anything.

I crouch into the corner and tremble. When will this end? I think of all the times I have tried to escape my fate. I am reminded of all the times I failed in some way. I have spent the better part of my adult life being told “You’re so smart. You’ll go places.”, but that hasn’t happened yet. Am I meant to be a permanent reminder to all? You can work hard and do everything in your power to get ahead in life but “in the end, it is about who you know and not what you know.” I have had opportunities to achieve my dreams, and every time I have lost. I’m a failure. Maybe it’s time to give up on moving up?

The clouds fade away, and the light returns. It shines into the other three edges of my self-made cell and touches my toes, my fingers. The tempo changes. It’s a full orchestra – it’s a choir – it’s Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor”.

“You got the job!” I hear over the throng.

Success. I have finally reached the success I’ve craved.

The warmth tries to envelope me, but I inch further into the adjoining walls. I stand rigid as the light creeps closer. It tries to cover me whole, but I won’t let it, shrinking further into that dark recess. Why is my fear and anger of inadequacy still here? Why does it dominate so? I want to be happy.

I want to be happy.

(Feature image source)

Opposing Views

I was raised in a very conservative home. My parents were Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (not to be confused with Southern Baptists- that’s blasphemous). Basically what that meant is that they believe(d) in the inerrancy of the Bible and the literal interpretation of it. In our home, if we had a Bible, it was a King James Version. We had a thick Concordance that gave a more literal translation from the Greek, Hebrew, etc of the originally-written text. In other words, we were a version of the Duggar family and other “radicals.”

We were also Republicans. Not a big stretch given we lived in a small east Texas town, but there you have it.

I identified as a Republican and an Independent Baptist almost all my life. I’d stand up straight, shoulders back, chest out, and declare I was conservative. I’d be damned if people would think less of me for it, too.

Conservative has such a negative connotation now. Sometimes I wonder why and then I’m reminded of what the world sees from “fundamentalists,” Tea Party, and Christians.

Federal election is coming up in Australia this weekend, and as it is my first time voting in a major election, I realized I had no idea which political side I identified with most. So a few months ago, I sat down and took a test, then another and another to confirm my findings.

Despite being raised and embracing my conservatism (I thought), I did not hold the same ideals anymore. For every pro-death sentence (yes, I’m one of those people), I was pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-immigration, pro-euthanasia. I was basically pro-human rights.

I have since stripped myself of that “conservative” tag. At best, I’m middle-ground. At worst, I’m a full-fledged liberal or Democrat.

So what’s the point?

Well, it has me wondering. What else did I take away from my childhood and embraced as my own but actually isn’t? My IFB background lacks. I don’t actively go to church or believe in the inerrancy of the Bible anymore either. In fact, aside from living my life with tolerance, kindness, and the nightly prayer, I am the most “lukewarm Christian” I can be. I will always identify as Christian, but I can’t claim a denomination nor do I really see any reason to.

I also realized that the choices I made in all of the tests contradict my upbringing. My father used to complain about the illegal immigrants standing at a street corner “taking jobs” from “hardworking Americans.” Or how when drunk, he would say the most abhorrent things about gays and “lady men,” despite being nice to all of my friends that were. I won’t repeat the words. Needless to say, he was racist, and for a long time I probably was too.

As we all grow up, we start to realize our views are not the same as our parent’s. We take on our own views, and in a lot of occasions, they are completely opposite. Even now, I avoid conversations with my mother about politics, marriage equality, and Christianity. Mostly because the debate becomes quite heated, and there’s one thing I did take and keep from my childhood. My stubbornness. :O

So how have your views differed from those of your parents? I bet you’ll have more than you know. 🙂

A Decade Past

With only two or three hours of sleep, I am so wired this morning. It’s going to be a big day. My belongings are scattered across the floor in varying shapes, sizes and weight classes. The heaviest item is a leather-bound, book with gold trimmed pages titled “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.” I muse for a moment on how I hadn’t read half the book, and I am really regretting it now.

70lb is the limit for each suitcase. To be safe, I should really go for 65lb. That’s really not much for all your worldly possessions. Some things will have to stay. There’s always the option to ship the rest.

It hardly feels real. This is really happening.

Questing in Thousand Needles, Tenoridus, the great tauren shaman, was losing life and pride in the harpy cave. His call for help was heard, and another shaman, an orc by the name of Graxkil, came to assist.  The two chatted for a time until Graxkil offered the tauren to join his guild. Tenoridus happily accepted.

 

kyl-taurencinematic
(c) Blizzard

My bags are packed and in the car. I don’t need to be at the airport until 6pm, but with rush hour traffic, the Dallas streets will be packed. We leave at 4pm, hitting traffic before we even enter LBJ Freeway.

The car ride is a long and silent one. Mom doesn’t want me to go, and Dad is mad at me for making Mom cry. I won’t mention anything of what life will be like for me there.

Graxkil and Tenoridus teamed up weekly with three others to face the threats poised against Azeroth. Grax led the group while Ten healed them. They made a great team, and over the coming months, many foes were vanquished by them. They were all getting closer to each other, especially Grax and Ten.

We’re at the airport now. The moment is finally here to say goodbye. The words fall to ash in my mouth before they are even uttered.

I can’t say it. I won’t say it. 

I hug my mother and then Daddy. I refuse to let emotion to take me. I blink my eyes to stop the tears, grab my things and walk into the security line. Just before I’m up to the gate, I turn around and look at my family. We wave at each other like we’ll see each other again soon. I refuse to think that it might be the last time I see any of them.

The Timbermaw Hold faction called for help in Winterspring. To become revered with these tiny humanoids, Graxkil was tasked with killing thousands of Winterspring furbolgs to retrieve their beads. It’s a task that will take at least a month, but Tenoridus was bored. So they join forces to make the grinding just that much easier.

They talked together during hours of combat. About everything, and their friendship turned to kinship over time. The nightly rep grind became a reason to get up every day.

It is my first plane ride. I’m so very nervous, but I’m also excited. I just think about the end goal.

The plane takes off, and my thoughts soar with it. I can’t wait to get on the connecting flight so I can sleep. My twenty hour journey is finally beginning.

Another guild has set their sights on Tenoridus, proving himself worthy of their group. They aimed to bring him to their side. He wrestled with the decision to join them and tried hard to find a way to make a compromise, but ultimately, the call pulled him away. He was ready to see fame and glory, and the other guild would be able to give that to him. 

Graxkil was stunned and hurt. This act of betrayal from the one he held dearest wrecked him. He turned his back on his guild and vowed to never return, disappearing from Azeroth. Tenoridus was devastated when he heard the news.

I’m at Los Angeles an hour and a half late, and now I’m panicking because I have less than thirty minutes to get to the international terminal, get signed in and get on the plane. I race through the crowded airport and worry that I will miss my flight or that my luggage won’t make it to the plane in time.

Graxkil sent Tenoridus a message. He has realised that the nightly chats had meant more than either had realised. The separation showed them something they had kept quiet even to themselves. He asked Tenoridus to come back to his guild and to him.

Graxkil was the first to say the words. Those three little words were frightening at first, because with them came the realisation that they shared the same feelings. But also because, in reality, there was an ocean and half a world between them.

I barely sleep on the flight. I try, but I’m too restless. I think about how I got here, and the future I will have with Wayne. I think about how we know each other better than many married couples do, and that talking on Skype for hours every night for almost 9 months while we played World of Warcraft together meant our relationship was built on communication. We have made the long distance relationship work. There is zero doubt in my mind of that.

I watch every movie available on the plane, and finally fall asleep around 5am.

“The time is 6:03am on May first,” the pilot says, as we start our descent into Brisbane International Airport.

The morning light shines through the terminal, and I see Wayne waiting for me, flowers in his hand.

I’m finally meeting the man of my dreams.
Only twelve months after my Tenoridus met his Graxkil.

Our first hug is a relief. I whisper the words to him, and for the first time in my life, I feel whole.

Ten years later, I feel the exact same way.